This chunky blend of crispy shallots and garlic infused in aromatic chili oil becomes a spicy topping that goes with meat, fish, eggs, rice, tofu … or just about anything you like. Our version is simple to make, and uses ingredients that are easy to find in most grocery stores.
What is your favorite condiment, and why is it Chili Crisp?
The pandemic, and its supply constraints, have reinvigorated, for many people, a sense of experimentation in the kitchen. If you can’t get down to the store quite so often to buy bread, try making your own. Dust off that pasta maker that you got as a gift years ago but never had the time to use. And if your favorite topping is temporarily unavailable, how about making your own?
We discovered the joys of chili crisp after picking up a jar on a whim from our local Asian market a few years ago. We were instantly hooked. It’s a spicy condiment with heat from Szechuan pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic, as well as warm spices including star anise and ginger. Super crispy shallots and sliced garlic provide the deliciously crunchy bits immersed in the chili oil. That’s our favorite part, so our version calls for a lot of it. Chili Crisp has a spicy heat, but not an overwhelming punch, so it complements a dish rather than taking it over entirely. Of course you can make your version as spicy as you want by adding more or less chili to the mix.
You might be familiar with Lao Gan Ma brand chili crisp, which is the version we were able to find locally (you can also find it online). We’ve created a variation that, along with the extra shallot and garlic, includes warmth from cumin and Aleppo pepper flakes, and chopped peanuts for extra chunky crunch.
Making Chili Crisp
The process for making Chili Crisp is simple, though having the right tools can be helpful. The first helpful tool is a mandoline slicer. This helps cut the shallots and garlic evenly, which allows them to cook evenly as well. It also speeds up the prep which can take awhile. Of course you can use a knife and end up with similar (if slower) results, so don’t fret if you don’t have one.
We like to cut the shallots just a little more thickly than the garlic (about 2-3mm, or 1/8″, and about 1mm for the garlic). This helps the slices hold their shape a little better, and keeps them a little crunchier. If you’re using a knife, consistency is more important than exactly how thick the slices are.
Add the sliced shallots and the oil to a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. If your pot is too thin, the oil will get too hot and scorch the shallots. Turn the heat on medium and once the shallots start bubbling in the oil, turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook them, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, with the oil very gently bubbling. The shallots should not be getting dark at this point, but will turn soft and translucent. Don’t rush this step or the shallots will not get crisp.
(If you’re a long-term follower of the blog, you might recognize this technique from the crispy shallots we sprinkle onto whipped rutabaga every Thanksgiving.)
Add the garlic and star anise, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the garlic and shallots turn light golden brown. If they aren’t turning brown after 15 minutes, turn the heat up just slightly, and keep cooking them until they turn golden. Keep a careful eye on them, as they can go from pale to burned very quickly.
While the shallots and garlic are cooking, add the rest of the ingredients to a medium heat-proof bowl.
Note: we like the combination of milder, fruity Aleppo chili flakes, with spicier crushed red chili flakes. Really you could use any kind of chili flakes you like (Korean gochugaru would be great). Or you could crush your own whole dried chilis (like árbol, or Szechuan chiles).
Place a fine mesh sieve over the bowl, and once the shallots and garlic are golden, carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl through the sieve. Line a plate with a few paper towels and spread the shallots and garlic out to allow them to fully cool and crisp. Discard the star anise. Stir the oil into the chili/spice mix and set it aside until the shallots cool, about 20 minutes. Note: the shallots and garlic won’t fully crisp until they cool.
Once the oil mixture and shallots have both fully cooled and crisped, mix the crispy shallots and garlic into the spicy oil. Transfer the finished chili crisp into clean glass jars and store it in the refrigerator where it will last for about 3 months. It can be used immediately, but for the best flavor, let it sit for a day or so. Stir well before serving.
Pairing it with Other Recipes
Honestly it would be hard to find a recipe that this chili crisp wouldn’t pair well with (perhaps breakfast cereal? Marshmallow fluff? You know someone has tried it), but here’s a selection of recipes from the blog that would be perfect for spooning a little of it onto.
Drop us a comment and let us know what you add it to!
Homemade Chili Crisp
- 1½ cups peanut or vegetable oil
- 4 large shallots thinly sliced (about 2-3mm thick)
- 2 large heads of garlic cloves peeled, thinly sliced (about 1mm thick)
- 3 star anise pods
- 2 inch fresh ginger peeled, minced
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons Aleppo pepper flakes
- 1/2 tablespoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG optional, but encouraged
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts or soybeans roughly chopped
- Add the oil and shallots to a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat. When oil begins to bubble, lower the heat to medium-low and let the shallots gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until they soften and just barely start to color, about 25 minutes.
- Add the garlic and star anise and continue to cook, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic turn light golden brown, about another 10 to 15 minutes. You can raise the heat just a little if they don't brown at all. Keep a careful eye on the pot because the garlic and shallots can scorch.
- While the shallots are cooking, add the ginger, pepper flakes, Sichuan pepper, cumin, MSG, soy sauce, sugar and peanuts to a medium heat-proof bowl. Set a fine mesh sieve on top of the bowl.
- When the shallots and garlic are lightly golden, carefully pour the hot oil through the sieve into the bowl with the pepper flakes, straining out the solids. Spread the garlic and shallots out on a paper towel-lined plate and allow them to cool completely (they won’t fully crisp until they cool), about 20 minutes. Discard the star anise.
- Once the oil mixture and shallots have both fully cooled, mix the crispy shallots and garlic into the bowl. Transfer the finished chili crisp into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator for about 3 months. It can be used immediately, but for the best flavor, let it sit for one day. Stir well before serving.